Guardiola and maintaining success (Arsenal 0, Man City 2)

A new season and the same narrative for both clubs.

Post-match, the statements from the interviewer to Guardiola seek to elicit praise.

Interviewer : “From start to finish the pace was there.”

“Yes, except the first 10 to 15 minutes of the second half. They push and we miss some balls and after it is a little more complicated, but in general we make an excellent performance.”


Guardiola then draws attention to the context of the match.

“Considering where we are in the season – a lot of players lacking in terms of physicality.”

Asked about Mahrez’s perfromance, Guardiola again qualifies his praise alongside an expectation of improvement.

“Quite well. In the first half he created a lot of chances. The space was there – his full back did not push up – but he is going to grow. Seeing and trainining and learning the way we want to play.”

Improvement is the dominant theme of his interview.

“Without the ball and with the ball – we were like we were last season and that is the principles to come back to the patterns, to the routines, to our football fundamentals and after we try to improve day-by-day and we will be better.”

Leadership communication lesson

The challenge of sustaining success is one any good leader will need to face in their career. Guardiola’s approach in qualifying praise, in stressing the fundamentals that underpin past successes and in highlighting the need and expectation to improve every day, is an excellent approach to this challenge. Qualifying praise should help keep ego’s in check, stressing the fundamentals reminds everyone why they have been successful and the expectation of improvement should help guard against the danger of complacency. It is not only in the football world that results can change quickly and every leader would do well to remember this.


You said it perfectly (Tot 1, Man City 3)

After two weeks of tears and tantrums from the more excitable elements of their recently acquired supporters, Guardiola finally appears wreathed in smiles.

Guardiola judges the opening question to be pefect.

“Pep, a great result. A good performance against a strong team.”

The interviewer, in Pep’s mind, has said it perfectly.

” It is not necessary for me to add anything else.”


He does though find something to add.

“London, Away, Against Tottenham, one of the toughest teams.”

We are also reminded of the context.

“We have done what we have done after a tough week. Because in some moments it was so unfair on us.”

“After what happened to us this week, we come here and play with our personality and the way we want to play.”

If anyone has missed this frame of reference, Guardiola calls out the games in question.

“After we went 2-0 up, maybe it was not easy for my players, remember Man Utd, remember Liverpool, but we were good and create more chances to score goals in the second half. ”

“At the end, we are so, so happy.”

Leadership communication lesson

Success brings many benefits and one of the most powerful is the opporunity it provides a leader to shape a narrative to their benefit. Success in the league means that defeats to Man Utd and, most damagingly, to Liverpool can be used to highlight the ability of his players to rebound from setbacks. Every manager seeks to convince their players of this ability and Guardiola does not miss this trick. He will also know it is a trick and, over the summer, this will become apparent as expensive replacement are found through the transfer market.


It was solid, it was good (Man City 4, Tottenham 1)

Have we reached peak Guardiola?

The opening question is one no Premier League manager has ever been asked.

“Congratulations on your 16th win in a row, how would you describe the performance?”

“It was solid, it was good.”


He focuses on the strengths of Tottenham.

“A team so demanding to be intense without the ball, because they play so good. Dele Ali, Eriksson, Dembele, Winks – they have good quality.”

“I am satisfied we beat one of the best teams in the Premier League.”

Given the opportunity to talk about the character of his team, Guardiola focuses on their work rate.

“Without the ball we are a so, so humble team.”

“You see the performance of Kevin De Bruyne. You cannot imagine how good he is with the ball, but you see how he runs.”

“If one of the best players runs like a player in the Conference then it is easier for the manager and the club.”

After 16 wins in a row, everything is easier for the manager and the club.

Leadership communication lesson

Any effective leader  knows  it is the behaviours of their team that determines their relative success. In their communications it should always be clear what the audience is being asked to do. By using Kevin De Bruyne as an example, Guardiola is clear on the behaviour he expects from all his players and it is a behaviour accessible to all his players. De Bruyne’s appreciation of space and movement may be inimitable, but any player can copy his work rate out of possession.

Another good performance (West Brom 2, Man City 3)

Thirty-five goals scored in only ten games suggests it is all going rather well for Guardiola and Man City.

Guardiola’s challenge is to manage expectations.

Hence, while recognising “another good performance”, he also draws attention to “conceding three chances and West Brom scored two goals.”


There is a warning about the risk of complacency.

“It is not easy to win a lot of games. It can confuse you in the head and you can think you are what you are not. It was a good performance in a humble way.”

“We are only five points ahead of the second-place team and nothing like where we need to be at the end of the season.”

If you are a team chasing Man City, you must already be worrying where they may be at the end of the season.

Leadership communication lesson

The post-match interview forces a manager to communicate after a game, but Guardiola also provides an example of how leaders are always communicating. Enjoying great success may be more pleasurable than failure, but all teams will need to be reminded of the dangers of hubris and the importance of staying close to the processes that have brought them success.


We played so good (Watford 0, Man City 6)

Fifteen goals, in three games, with none conceded, means City are having a moment.

Against Watford Guardiola believes, “We played so good, we played so good.”

He amplifies the result by placing it in a frame of his choosing.

“Last season Arsenal, Manchester United were beaten here, Liverpool did not win here and it is hard, especially after being away in the Champions League three days before.”


The result is a consequence of the performance.

“We build up, a lot of players close to the ball, we are able to make short passes, we have a lot of energy with our full backs to be able to go up and down, the players who come from the bench give us something new, so it is good.”

“We make a good performance. That is the most important thing, because when you make a good performance, after that you always win.”

Questioned as to whether the staff and players were now a more relaxed team, Guardiola brings it back to basics.

“Winning games gives you more confidence so the staff are happier.”

“The reason we are here is to win games.”

Leadership communication lesson

Success is an opportunity to build the belief of your team in the work they are doing and the decisions you have taken. Within any team there will be individuals who doubt and are critical of the leader. Framing your success in an argument of your choosing – as Guardiola does here in stressing the strategic elements of the performance – is a powerful tool for a leader to push these voices to the margin.




Guardiola – One of the proudest days of my life (Man City 1, Everton 1)

Guardiola’s post-match interview added to the fun of a lively match that was either spoilt or made by the referee depending on your taste.

For Guardiola, “We played a good performance. We created chances. Important to create chances – OK we didn’t finish, but important to create chances.”

Pressed to describe the mistakes of his own team in contributing to the goal, Guardiola only recognises Everton before turning it back to praise his own players.


“They [Everton] made a good action. We have done everything. I don’t know how many chances we create. We play with 10 men, similar to Burnley for 70 minutes – then we were able to win, today we draw.”

Does he want to discuss the refereeing decisions?

“Next question”

Asked about his tactical change, he deflects any praise onto the players. “Tactics depend on the players. We put more players in the middle to gain more control – we create enough chances.”

He ends, as he started, by praising his players.

“We are here for the results, but at the end we have to analyse the performance. It’s one of the proudest days of my life – 10 against 11 for 65-70 minutes against a top quality team is not easy.”

Leadership communication lesson

Creating an environment of trust and respect is often critical for any leader.  The team’s perception of the willingness of the leader to defend their performance in public can often dramatically influence this environment. In not criticising any player, Guardiola can build that sense of trust within his group. As Guardiola points out – we are here for the results – but the best way to achieve those results is with a team who trusts their leader.







The Top 4 is a Trophy (Arsenal 2, Man City 2)

“I will not stop because retirement equals death.”

If you thought Wenger was already under pressure then this quote in the build up to the match caused a double-take.

The failure of the referee to spot an infringement means Wenger dodges the grim-reaper for the moment.

Mental strength is the theme of Wenger’s post-match interview.

The team was “ready for a fight”, “on the mental front it was a very strong performance.” and “for us the test was mental”. “Mentally it has a positive impact on our team”.


This mental victory is the counter-balance for the fact that “mathematically you could say it is not good for them (City) or for us (Arsenal).”

Indeed. League tables can be frustratingly mathematical.

How tough will it be to make the top 4?

For Wenger it will be tough.

He illustrates this by quoting a young manager who has said that in England to be in the top 4 is a trophy because it is so difficult.

The stick that has been used to beat Wenger mercilessly during the 13 years since they last won the title is  effortlessly broken across his knee with this comment.

The young manager in question?


Leadership communication lesson

The  Enthymeme is a logic sandwich any leader needs to get to grips with to win their arguments. It takes a belief of the audience and uses it to help convince them. If your assumption is that Guardiola is a great manager, then if he thinks a top 4 finish is a trophy, you are logically forced to recognise Wenger’s achievements.  A leader needs to find and understand the assumptions of their audience. Basing your arguments on these assumptions is the strongest way to win any argument.